Customary Land

Returning to the Land for Sustenance

Source: EMTV Online

The scorching 2pm Port Moresby sun was nothing to worry about as mothers were busy on what they do daily; toiling the land not far from the National Parliament of Papua New Guinea.

EMTV Online spot the gardeners today (Wednesday, August 9, 2017) as they were busy planting, watering and digging at the backyard of Fincorp building near the National Parliament.

Lands claims 'legal issues hindering cancellation of SABLs'


The Prime Minister, Peter O'Neill, and the Lands Minister, Benny Allen promised in April that all Special Agriculture Business Leases (SABLs) were being cancelled. Their promises came one after another, seemingly coordinated to placate the public on the eve of elections. But now the Lands Department is claiming 'legal issues' have prevented any cancellations - see report below. It looks like the Prime Minister and the Lands Minister's promises were just empty words...

Source: The National Newspaper

Self sufficiency

Eighty-five percent of the population in Papua New Guinea, over 7 million people, live in rural communities on their own ‘customary’ land. 

For these people their land is their supermarket, hardware store, pharmacy and cash machine.

The land provides food to eat from gardens and hunting, water, medicines, fuel for cooking, materials to build houses and make ropes, fences, baskets, tools and weapons. 

The land also binds families, clans and communities together. It provides social cohesion, sustains cultural identity and underlies spiritual beliefs.

Hidden economy

Customary land is the foundation for a huge economy based around subsistence agriculture and the informal sector that is worth more than K40 billion a year. This economy is many times larger than the ‘formal’ export economy but it is largely ignored by the advocates of land alienation.

False claims

Large corporations see customary land in Papua New Guinea as a huge resource that they want to acquire and profit from. They are trying to address the ‘omissions’ of the colonial era and take control of customary land in PNG as part of an ideological war that relies on international finance groups, corporate think-tanks, aid programs and local elites.


Corruption is a huge problem in PNG. It is estimated up to half the government’s annual development budget is stolen and there are many examples of corrupt and unlawful land deals. The worst example was the SABL land grab in which fraudulent agriculture leases were used to unlawfully acquire rights to more than 50,000 square kilometres of customary land - more than 12% of the whole country.

Corruption plays two important roles in the land debate in Papua New Guinea.